Last week I went shopping during a short trip to New York. I had a particular destination in mind: the new shop by menswear brand 18 East. But as it isn’t registered on CityMapper, it took me a while to find. And no wonder: it’s on a quiet street in Chinatown beneath a grass-green awning bearing the words, “Ming Beauty Salon Inc”. Inside, where massage tables and nail baths once stood, there are now racks of chunky rollnecks and pleated trousers, and wooden pallets laden with beanies and totes.
Whoever says that New York retail is dead hasn’t been to Chinatown, with its intoxicating mix of chaos and calm. Other recent menswear additions to the neighbourhood, such as Bode and Aimé Leon Dore, are in more prominent positions. And yet there’s a definite sense of discovery here. The most unlikely shopping spot, which I first visited a couple of years ago, is on the top floor of New York Mart Mall (a Chinese shopping centre) near Manhattan Bridge. Past dozens of thronged food vendors and up a raggedy staircase is a lovely record shop and several vintage boutiques.
This sense of adventure is partly born of necessity: rents are cheaper if you’re hidden on the top floor of a mall or tucked away on a sleepy side street. But in an era when everything is at our fingertips, it’s exciting when we have to work to find the things we want. We just need a nudge in the right direction.